People choose healthier food when with outsiders for fear of being negatively judged

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People from different social groups are more likely to choose a healthy food option than an unhealthy food option because they are afraid of being judged negatively for their choices.

New research, published in Psychology & Marketing and co-author of Bayes Business School, found that the presence of individuals from different friendship or social groups played a role in influencing consumers’ food choices.

The study, which examined food choices with those of a different race and university, explains that this happens because individuals anticipate more negative reviews from outsiders. The study, which spoke to about 1,000 people in total, shows that people often categorize themselves in terms of their race, college affiliation and work relationship.

Experiments with several hundred adults in a major US city and university showed that participants were more likely to choose a healthy snack in the presence of an observer of a different race (as opposed to the same race) or someone affiliated with a different university. (as opposed to the same breed). to their own university). This was because they expected a more negative assessment from a group of outsiders and so they tried to mitigate these assessments by making healthier food choices.

Four separate experiments supported the authors’ view that the presence of a stranger from a different social group (compared to a stranger from their own group, such as their own university) influenced participants’ food choices.

In one experiment, 180 students were given a choice between delicious M&Ms and healthier raisins as a snack. In the presence of an unknown fellow student from their own university, only 12% of the students opted for the healthier raisins. However, this number more than doubled to 31% in the presence of an unknown student from another university.

The other experiments showed that the reason for this pattern is that people feel judged to a greater extent by members of the outgroup, and they strategically use healthy food choices to make a positive impression to counteract this negative judgment. For example, 200 consumers were told that others around them were judgmental or tolerant. In the judgmental environment, consumers were more likely to choose carrots than in the permissive environment, indicating that the expected judgment of others explains the findings.

Last month, the Action on Sugar and Obesity Health Alliance called on the UK government to act against the difference in sugar content and portion size of popular snacks. Despite many efforts to help consumers make healthier choices, consumers often struggle to maintain a healthy diet. This research shows that one way to promote a healthy diet could be to advertise the social benefits of healthy choices.

dr. Janina Steinmetz, Associate Professor (Reader) Marketing at Bayes, said the findings have practical implications for healthy food marketers and policymakers who want to promote healthy eating:

“We know that food plays an important role in social life and that consumers often make inferences about the traits and characteristics of others based on their food choices.

“Our research shows that we can leverage this important role of food for consumer well-being if we emphasize that healthy food is not only good for consumers, but also helps them to impress others. These findings could be very important for those looking to improve healthy eating practices in the UK as they open up a new avenue for promoting the benefits of healthy eating: it’s good for you and your health, and it’s also good for making a positive impression.”

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More information:
Maferima Touré‐Tillery et al, Feeling reviewed? How the presence of outgroup members promotes healthier food choices, Psychology & Marketing (2022). DOI: 10.1002/mar.21667

Provided by City University London

Quote: People choose healthier food when they are with outsiders for fear of being judged negatively (2022, May 12) retrieved May 14, 2022 from negative.html

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